Wednesday, June 03, 2009

God...a lot to cover, and little time to do it in...

First, I want to touch on the boneheaded.

James Harrison of the Steelers is an idiot. If you don't want to go to visit the president, fine. Don't tell me it's because if the Cardinals had won that they would have been invited and then go calling the president a fair weather fan because of it. I mean, is he really that ignorant?

Speaking of ignorant - I think that LeBron James ranting about being a competitor rings really hollow as an excuse to not shake hands and to not talk to the press immediately following getting bounced from the playoffs is hollow, immature, and bush league. I could put together a list of people that are extraordinarily competitive that haven't done that - Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Curt Schilling, Pete Rose...the list goes on.

None of those people shied away from the press when they lost, and they understood, as faces of their franchises, that they were expected to act like a leader whether they won, or they were metaphorically kicked in the balls. They knew there was nothing wrong with acknowledging the competition's achievements at their own expense. They may not always say the right things (see Manning's rant about his offensive line a couple of years ago - even if it's accurate, you don't throw teammates under the bus).

On a personal note, I was offended. I'm a very competitive guy. Over the years, since a kid through now I played baseball (little league and college), football (HS, semi-pro), street hockey (8 years), ran track (7 seasons HS and college), soccer (youth, HS, college), martial arts (25 years), and Australian football (10 seasons). In that time I was involved with some absolutely dominant teams (in all six HS seasons of track the team I ran on either outright won or tied for the league championship in every season), and some absolute dogs (in two seasons of division 3 college baseball I played for a team that went 2-18. We lost to teams such as the Massachusetts College of Pharmacy...yes, we lost to future pharmacists).

I'm not saying that people should be happy about losing. In no way, shape or form am I saying that. But there's nothing wrong with congratulating someone on beating your brains in. Nothing wrong at all in acknowledging that you and your team were outplayed.

Other quick thoughts...

Right now, based on recent starts, the Sox rotation, in regards to the importance of what the starters are doing for them looks like this -

Josh Beckett
Brad Penny
Tim Wakefield
Jon Lester
Daisuke Matsuzaka

For the last month Beckett has been the ace that they had two seasons ago. Hopefully that lasts.

Penny, for all the talk about trading him before the deadline, has been the team's most consistent starter, outside of Beckett since the end of April. Until they have a sure-thing number-two starter, Penny has made himself near indispensable in the Sox rotation.

Overall, Wakefield has been the Sox best starter, but for the last month he's been a little erratic. Yes, he carried the rotation in April, but with two tough starts in the last month, Wake has fallen to the middle of the rotation. Still, assuming he stays healthy, he's on pace to win fifteen or more games this season.

Lester has been a crap shoot all season long. One start he'll be absolutely dominating and look like he's turned the corner, the next he'll get lit up for seven runs in four innings. If he can put together more than two good starts back to back, well, let's just say that would be a nice change and a good place to start.

I just can't put Matsuzaka any higher than fifth in this list, in spite of Lester's struggles. For all of Lester's problems, he's still averaging six innings per start. Matsuzaka has managed to pitch into the sixth inning in only one of his starts and has averaged 4.1 innings per start. Only once in his five starts has he given up fewer than three earned runs. Yes, his last start was encouraging, but he's still at the bottom of the pile right now.

Finally (regarding the Red Sox), I'm not buying into the Renaissance of Jason Varitek. Yes, he's putting up decent numbers (he's on pace for about 30 home runs and 66 RBI), but at the end of May last year 'Tek was batting .272 through 46 games. At the time he was on pace for 20 home runs and 60 RBI. The remainder of the season he batted .191 and finished with 13 homeruns and 43 RBI. For the final two-thirds of the season he hit all of six home runs and had 23 runs driven in. When the weather got hot, 'Tek's bat cooled off.

That wasn't a complete fluke. In 2007 'Tek hit .245 for the balance of the season after hitting .277 for the first two months of that season. Overall the Sox catcher finished on pace for homeruns (he was on pace for 15 and finished with 17) but off the pace for RBI (he was on pace for 78, but finished with 68). Sure, that last one wasn't a huge difference, but it is an illustration of Varitek's drop off in production during warmer weather in each of the last couple of seasons.

My guess is that his bat cools off over the next couple of months and he finishes around .220 with under 50 RBI and between 15 and 20 HR. I just hope I'm wrong.

The last thing I wanted to touch on...

All the reports out of Foxboro are that Tom Brady is moving well in OTA's.

My guess is that Brady will see some significant time in at least one, if not two of the preseason games for two reasons. The coaching staff is going to want him to shake off the rust of a season off, and more importantly, to see how he reacts to bodies around him. Watch him step up in the pocket, avoid the rush, see if the knee is in his head, so to speak.

If he comes through with flying colors, it could be a very interesting season for the Pats.

Offensively this team broke a ton of records two seasons ago. Both Randy Moss and Wes Welker were in their first year in the system. That included playing the team's final seven games all in cold/bad weather locations after mid-November.

Is the offense going to be as good? Probably not - 2007 was a once-in-a-lifetime sort of season, but an argument can be made to expect big things.

Moss and Welker are in their third season in the system. Brady has a season of rest. His third and fourth options with Joey Galloway and Greg Lewis (not to mention Sam Aiken) are better than what he had then. He should have a healthy stable of running backs going into the season - also better than they were then with the addition of Fred Taylor and the return of a healthy Laurence Maroney, along with Sammy Morris and Kevin Faulk.

If the O-line stays healthy, they could still put up big numbers.

On top of all that, I firmly believe that the defense has upgraded with Leigh Bodden and Shawn Springs on the corners, and mind you this is merely a guess, but I would put odds on the Patriots signing the recently released Greg Ellis to bolster the linebacking corps which I think is going to get a boost from a healthy Shawn Crable anyway. The defense's big problem is that a number of the players in the second level are new to the system. If they come together, this defense has the potential to be one of the best of the Belichick era.

Of course all of this is contingent upon being healthy. A hard thing in the NFL.

And a final Patriot note -

Happy trails Rodney Harrison. I'm looking forward to your career as an analyst.


Teresa said...

You forgot the "liquored up kicker" comment...that was my favorite from Manning.

Mini camp was this weekend....which means football is coming. Thank goodness. Little league baseball is about over.

Chris Stone said...

I love Rodney Harrison's first comments as an analyst. he said peyton manning was panicking. (because of the coaching turn over with the Colts.)

it could be fun. and the Pats should be good this year!